In an interview to CentralAsia.news, Valentin Trapeznikov, an observer of the economy of Turkmenistan, outlined the prospects for Turkmenistan and the region as a whole within the the 15th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit held in Ashgabat.
Arteries of life
The summit, held under the chairmanship of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on November 28, became a significant milestone in the development of multilateral cooperation between members of this authoritative international structure. The initiative to hold the Summit on the Day of the ECO formation belongs to the head of Turkmenistan, who voiced it at the previous 14th summit.
The significance of the Forum was confirmed by the authoritative state delegations headed by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, as well as the participation of the ECO Secretary General.
During the Summit, its participants held a fruitful discussion and made specific proposals for strengthening cooperation.
According to the President of Turkmenistan, one of the most important priorities of the ECO is the development of cooperation in transport and energy, which determine trends in global economic growth.
In recent years, the Turkmen state, in partnership with a number of ECO member states, has started to realize major infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, power lines along the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route, and a railway from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.
Much attention is paid to the activation of transport and transit communication along the East-West and North-South lines, in particular, the creation of transport corridors Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman, as well as Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov proposed to study the use of logistics and infrastructure facilities and modern port facilities on the Caspian coast of Turkmenistan in the interests of the ECO partners.
The importance of international transport and transit corridors was also emphasized in the speeches by the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Trade and investment
The most important component of interstate partnerships is the development of trade. At the end of last year, the total trade turnover between the ECO member countries amounted to 49.8 billion US dollars, which, according to the President of Turkmenistan, does not reflect the existing joint potential. Therefore, it was proposed to activate the role of business communities and think about creating specialized ECO business platforms based on the principles of public-private partnerships, working in the interests of developing and expanding trade relations between the members of the Organization.
ECO Secretary General Khusrav Noziri emphasized the importance of establishing an ECO Clearing Union between the central banks of partner countries to facilitate prompt economic transactions related to trade. An important component of expanding the ECO’s external relations is strengthening cooperation with such organizations and structures as the UN, OIC, European Commission, IDB, WTO, ASEAN, SCO, Organization of Turkic States and a number of others.
The importance of the functioning of the ECO financial and banking sector was also noted. A significant initiative in this regard was the proposal of the President of Uzbekistan to establish a Center for Trade, Investment and Innovation within the ECO jointly with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDA).
An agreement to encourage micro — small and medium — sized enterprises as an important factor in economic growth and partnership was reached.
The heads of the states spoke in favor of further uniting joint efforts in trade, economy and investments, energy, transport and communication sectors, agriculture, science, cultural and humanitarian field, tourism and the environment. In addition, they advocated the development of appropriate strategies in these areas.
Be prepared for the pandemic
The leaders of the states proposed to develop a strategy for the cooperative development of the ECO economy, taking into account the challenges of COVID-19 and the key tasks of the post-pandemic period. The need to deepen the integration of the ECO into the modern system of world economic relations was also emphasized.
Particular attention was paid to such pressing global problems as climate change, ecology, environmental protection and other important areas. In this regard, they agreed on joint actions aimed at strengthening cooperation in the implementation of clean energy technologies.
In matters indicating the importance of further consolidating efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic, the President of Turkmenistan noted the advisability of establishing systemic channels for the exchange of experience, methods and best practices in the field of countering dangerous infectious diseases within the ECO.
Turkmenistan is a key link in the regional complex
At the 15th Ashgabat Summit the agreements aimed at accelerating the pace of partnership in all areas of mutual interest in order to turn the ECO into a dynamic and effective regional economic structure were concluded.
Turkmenistan can play a key role in the implementation of these agreements. Turkmenistan, along with Iran, has the largest hydrocarbon potential, which makes it one of the leading players in the regional and world gas market. The directions of its export are progressively diversifying and in the future may cover the entire Eurasian continent.
The policy of large-scale diversification of the economy is gradually increasing the export potential of Turkmenistan in many other areas, including oil products, electricity, textile, chemical, agricultural products, building materials, food and electronic products. This is an important factor in the development of international trade. And the construction of unique innovative production and social facilities has a positive effect on the intensification of investment activities.
In addition, Turkmenistan is, in fact, a key link in the regional transport and communication complex. Almost all the most important transport corridors in the North-South and West-East directions pass through our country. This factor, in addition to the mentioned foreign trade relations, is the most important for the development of the tourism industry.
Thus, realizing its huge and multidisciplinary socio-economic potential, Ashgabat makes a concrete contribution to strengthening fruitful interstate partnership both within the ECO and other international organizations and associations.